Shocking LA Times Editorial: Fairness Doctrine Limits Free Speech

As most media have unsurprisingly cheered the Democrats' recent moves to either bring back the Fairness Doctrine, or prevent its prohibition, the Los Angeles Times has presented itself as a beacon of sanity in the midst of a clear lack thereof.

In fact, instead of the prevalent, pointless, press pontifications about equal opportunity on the airwaves, and ensuring the public hears both sides of the debate, Tuesday's Times editorial - bravely entitled "The Unfairness Doctrine" - spoke the truth about the extraordinary access the citizenry currently have to diverse views on all subjects.

With that in mind, prepare yourself for an alternate media reality (emphasis added throughout):

The demise of immigration reform legislation in the Senate has led some congressional Democrats to strike back at conservative talk-radio stations, which stoked public opposition by labeling the bill "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. Their anger at the talkers' demagoguery is justified, but their response isn't. They want to revive the Fairness Doctrine -- a Cold War-era federal rule designed to promote balanced coverage of important issues on the public airwaves.

Shocking. Not only was the Times spot on concerning the cause of this disingenuous revival, but also pointed the finger squarely at Democrats.

Checking that link to confirm this was actually an LA Times editorial? I understand. I've checked it thrice:

If the rule were reinstituted, stations that carry Rush Limbaugh could be forced to broadcast commentaries favoring everything that Limbaugh derides, from greenhouse gas controls to same-sex marriage. With hundreds of provocative talk-show hosts on the air, federal regulators could soon be awash in demands for rebuttals.

[...]

No matter what your point of view might be, you have free or inexpensive outlets available today to express them -- maybe not a radio or TV station but certainly a website, a video blog, a podcast or an e-mail newsletter. At the same time, the public has unprecedented access to a diverse array of opinions. Just as the government shouldn't decide what you say on the channels you create, nor should it be able to dictate the range of opinions people hear over the air.

Unbelievable sanity from a normally left-wing publication. Now, a little background to support its view, with a powerful conclusion:

[The Federal Communications Commission] abandoned [the Fairness Doctrine] in 1987 on grounds that the rise of cable TV networks had diluted broadcasters' sway over public opinion. The proliferation of media sources has made that dilution even more pronounced today.

Granted, broadcasters remain the most powerful voices because they're the ones with the largest audiences. But that's because the public chooses to tune them in, not because there are no alternatives. Restoring the government's power to monitor broadcasters' fulminations and splice in opposing views seems more likely to tame speech than to enlighten listeners.

Exactly! Bravo! Encore! Author, author!

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.